Egyptian hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Hieroglyphs from the tomb of Seti I.jpg
Hieroglyphs from KV17, the tomb of Seti I, 13th century BC
Logography usable as an abjad
LanguagesEgyptian language
Time period
c. 3200 BC[1] – AD 400
Parent systems
  • Egyptian hieroglyphs
Child systems
Hieratic, Demotic, Coptic, Meroitic, Proto-Sinaitic
ISO 15924Egyp, 050
Unicode alias
Egyptian Hieroglyphs

Egyptian hieroglyphs (-/[2][3]) were the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt. It combined logographic, syllabic and alphabetic elements, with a total of some 1,000 distinct characters.[4][5]Cursive hieroglyphs were used for religious literature on papyrus and wood. The later hieratic and demotic Egyptian scripts were derived from hieroglyphic writing.

The use of hieroglyphic writing arose from proto-literate symbol systems in the Early Bronze Age, around the 32nd century BC (Naqada III),[1] with the first decipherable sentence written in the Egyptian language dating to the Second Dynasty (28th century BC). Egyptian hieroglyphs developed into a mature writing system used for monumental inscription in the classical language of the Middle Kingdom period; during this period, the system made use of about 900 distinct signs. The use of this writing system continued through the New Kingdom and Late Period, and on into the Persian and Ptolemaic periods. Late survivals of hieroglyphic use are found well into the Roman period, extending into the 4th century AD.

With the final closing of pagan temples in the 5th century, knowledge of hieroglyphic writing was lost. Although attempts were made, the script remained undeciphered throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period. The decipherment of hieroglyphic writing would only be accomplished in the 1820s by Jean-François Champollion, with the help of the Rosetta Stone.


The word hieroglyph comes from the Greek adjective ἱερογλυφικός (hieroglyphikos),[6] a compound of ἱερός (hierós 'sacred')[7] and γλύφω (glýphō 'Ι carve, engrave'; see glyph).[8]

The glyphs themselves since the Ptolemaic period were called τὰ ἱερογλυφικὰ [γράμματα] (tà hieroglyphikà [grámmata]) "the sacred engraved letters", the Greek counterpart to the Egyptian expression of mdw.w-nṯr "god's words".[9] Greek ἱερογλυφός meant "a carver of hieroglyphs".

In English, hieroglyph as a noun is recorded from 1590, originally short for nominalised hieroglyphic (1580s, with a plural hieroglyphics), from adjectival use (hieroglyphic character).[10]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Sèng-su-thé
estremeñu: Herogríficu
한국어: 신성문자
Bahasa Indonesia: Hieroglif Mesir
íslenska: Híeróglýfur
қазақша: Египет жазуы
Kiswahili: Hiroglifi
Кыргызча: Иероглиф
Bahasa Melayu: Hieroglif Mesir
Mìng-dĕ̤ng-ngṳ̄: Séng-cṳ̆-tā̤
norsk nynorsk: Hieroglyf
polski: Hieroglify
slovenščina: Hieroglif
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Egipatski hijeroglifi
吴语: 圣书体
粵語: 聖書體
中文: 圣书体